This Month's Health MatterThe Menopause
Over the past 12 months, my quest to find out more about the menopause has led me in a number of different directions - some predictable and others not so.
An overriding fact that I have learnt, is that no more should the menopause be a phase of a woman's life that she feels unable to talk about.
The changes at this time when periods cease, largely brought about by decreasing levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, often come at a time when life is quite stressful enough.... teenage children, elderly parents, demanding jobs..... the plate spinning just goes on and on.
Then right in the middle of all this stress our bodies' familiar patterns start to change, exacerbating the feelings we may already be having of being out of control.
Sleep deprivation, often a part of the changes, compounds the inability to deal with the unfamiliar - compounding feelings of loss, sadness, anger and frustration; possibly accompanied by a sense of mourning for the loss of youth and fertility as well.
Connected to the hormonal changes, there is also often an increase in a myriad of symptoms that surface, connected to other conditions, such as auto-immune conditions, which are in some way connected to hormone stability and the endocrine system. This system, I have learnt, plays a significant part in the homeostasis of the whole body and during the early stages of the menopause, dormant conditions that may have been present in our bodies for a while, suddenly rear their 'ugly heads'.
So what can we do to help ourselves through this turbulent period in our lives?
Ways to take control and restore stability in your life:
1. Change of diet and supplements - more Omega rich foods - avocados, walnuts and oily fish. Good for improving mood and skin elasticity.
Change to a reputable multi-vitamin and mineral complex with ingredients to help hormonal balance.
Both of these will help you look and feel better.
2. Acupuncture - particularly useful for hot flushes and insomnia. Go to a registered practitioner.
3. Mindfulness/meditation - especially helpful on going to bed. Try reciting your times tables - great for taking your mind off the never-ending demands of the day! Try giving thanks for the things that have improved or gone right that day. Focus on the things that have made you happy or feel good that day - no matter how small.
4. Communication - let friends and family know what you're going through. Be honest and open.
5. Facilitate and encourage more independence among your offspring - they will benefit in the long run.
6. Encourage elderly relatives to accept help from others.
7. Allow yourself at least one treat a week to facilitate the 'feel-good-factor'. For example a facial or massage.
As well as the above, throughout the past year, I have learnt that there is a lot of jargon surrounding the menopause. To help us come to terms with this phase in our lives, we do need to de-code this jargon, in order to make informed choices regarding our future well-being.
No where is this more prevalent than in the area of HRT (hormone replacement therapy).
The term Bio-identical hormones is often banded around, with no explanation as to what this actually means. After a lot of reading and research, I have discovered that although some private clinics are pretending to have the monopoly on this, however, most of the HRT now available is actually bio-identical, in that it is natural and akin to the hormones made in our bodies.
Regular blood tests can help medical practitioners change the dosage to what an individual actually needs.
If you decide to use HRT to help combat menopausal symptoms, it is important to remember certain annual checkups are important. These include :
a mammogram, a cervical smear and an ultrasound of the lining of the womb and the ovaries.
Modern-day HRT can and should be tailor-made to suit individual needs, so if your symptoms are persisting and making life unbearable, please don't suffer in silence. Remember:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE AND YOU CAN AND WILL FEEL NORMAL AGAIN!